Four years ago tonight I received a startling phone call from my grandma.
“Pray for Amanda,” she began. “I don’t have all of the details, but she was in a skiing accident—hit a tree, I think—and is being rushed to the hospital.”
Amanda (pictured above, left, with her sister Allison) is my cousin—my mom’s sister’s daughter. Sixteen years old at the time, she was with her high school ensemble on their way to sing at a youth conference. En route, the group stopped for a planned skiing activity.
A few minutes after that first call, Grandma called again. Before she could even say it, I knew. Through a tight throat and tears she said what none of us ever wanted to hear, “Our Amanda is in Heaven.”
That was four years ago, and I still miss Amanda. Just this past Christmas, as our extended family gathered, I thought of Amanda and her bubbly enthusiasm that would have been overflowing into every activity, every conversation, every event that she engaged in.
Fifty-three years to the day before Amanda entered Heaven from the side of a ski slope, five missionaries—Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian—preceded her. They were escorted into eternity at the point of native spears.
Yet a few years before the missionaries were martyred, one of them recorded an insightful truth in his journal:
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.—Jim Elliot
Every time I remember this quote, it stirs my heart to want to live with eternity in view.
I’m quite confident that Amanda didn’t have a clue on the morning of January 8, 2009, that she would be in the presence of Jesus less than twenty-four hours later. Her death was sudden, and our loss was sharp.
But Amanda left a testimony of a teenager who loved God and delighted to invest her time and focus in eternal values.
Jim Elliot, too, has a testimony of a Christian who lived for eternity. His quote about giving what you can’t keep to gain what you can’t lose makes sense when you think about it. But it doesn’t always seem so simple when you actually try to live it.
I think we forget that life is passing. We only have one. It may be long; it may be short. Either way, it is limited.
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
At Amanda’s graveside service, people were invited to share remembrances of her life. In addition to her uplifting personality, there were two categories that I noticed were repeated: Amanda’s personal growth in God’s Word (she left an updated Bible reading schedule and a testimony of encouraging her brothers and sisters in spiritual growth) and a steadfast commitment in sharing the gospel.
Not surprisingly, both of those categories are centered on that which will last forever—God’s Word and the souls of men.
For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.—Psalms 119:89
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?—Mark 8:36
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.—John 3:16
It’s sort of amazing to think of a sixteen-year-old leaving a legacy. But Amanda did. And I believe that is because she made her life count for eternity.
Are you holding something now that seems difficult to let go? Is it something that you will be able to keep for eternity? If it’s only temporal, the sooner you let it go, the sooner you can reach for that which will last forever—God’s Word and the souls of men.
Don’t waste your life; invest it.
Thank you, Amanda, for the reminder that life is short, precious, and worth investing into eternity!